After 3+ years with an AG my g/f and I still are confused of the difference between molting and when she might be plucking.
Back in November my g/f went away and Ruby seemed to have plucked out a good chunk of her breast feathers and neck area. She also did a number on her back. We took her to the bird vet and he said she was fine. She stopped plucking when she returned and several months later she was back in fine shape.
Now last week we started seeing more breast feathers (those small feathers, not the underlying down although we see a lot of those too). Not nearly as bad as November (at least not yet). Her back is a little ratty looking too. There's really no stress in her life right now (that we can tell ...) and are inclined to think maybe this is a molt and not plucking but we're just not sure how to tell the difference.
We don't really see her plucking and even here it is difficult to ascertain (at least for me) between normal grooming and plucking.
Any tips to offer? This is probably been the one area of having an AG that we've had the most stress about. Just hate to think maybe she's under stress or uncomfortable. BTW her weight is fine; last night she was just shy of 300g (Timneh) which for her has always been a high water mark. Her behavior is also totally normal - singing/talking/playing. Everything normal.
When a feather molts out the shaft is clean. A plucked feather isn't ready to come out so the shaft won't look so clean. A molt is often evident by running your fingers over the feathers and some coming out, and they can look a bit scruffy during a molt. You can also see or feel the new pin feathers.
When grooming, the beak is run along the length of the feathers in turn whereas plucking tends to be concentrated in particular areas and the feathers might be either plucked out or chewed off.